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El Topo

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Mexico| 1970. Subtitled. Colour. 125 min


Drawing inspiration from a multitude of sources, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘acid western’ started the whole midnight movie craze of the early 1970s and is now something of a cult classic. El Topo opens with a passage that could be an existential journey for one’s soul or a spoof of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western: the bearded, leather-clad gunfighter El Topo (Jodorowsky himself) and his young son (Brontis Jodorowsky) ride through the desert and into a hamlet of bloodily decimated people and animals. From then on, it’s a winding, spiralling road of evil bandits, mystical foes, and whip-cracking dykes, spiked with indelible, surreal imagery. Bullets provide the stigmata for the hero’s nutty crucifixion midway through, and the movie’s second half finds El Topo as a bald-headed Holy Fool, reborn in a cave full of extras from Tod Browning’s Freaks. Whether one takes it as a staggeringly visionary work or a sadistic circus procession making an opportunistic grab for every artistic base (Buñuel and Zen, Eisenstein and pantomime, Antonin Artaud and Russ Meyer), there is no denying the immersive being of the film. —Fernando F. Croce.

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